“Thank you for deciding to join us today, Mr. Valdez.” Judge Sarah Andolette chimed as I hustled into the courtroom the next morning. I braced myself for a withering follow up, given that I was twenty minutes late for court. Judge Andolette was in her late fifties, yet she still dyed her hair to match the same strawberry blonde in the photos of when she first took the bench over twenty years ago. She was far from slender, despite the appearance that her black robes implied. The woman had become a fixture of the Osceola County court system and no one ever dared run against her.
“Your counterpart at the State Attorney’s office decided to call in sick today, apparently. She seemed fine during her hour and a half long closing argument at yesterday’s trial.” Judge Andolette’s smile was anything but pleasant.
“I’m sorry for being late, your Honor.” I apologized, trying to make my way to counsel table. Several private attorneys were already sitting there and the seats behind counsel table on the defense side of the courtroom were likewise taken.
“Don’t apologize to me, Mr. Valdez. Apologize to your client for making him have to wait so long for you. I told him he had to wait for his lawyer to show up before I addressed his case.” The judge continued.
“Judge?” I stopped looking for a place to put down my files and looked over at Judge Andolette in confusion. Of course my client had to wait for me. Looks like a back to back trial week for me.
“Because I’m ready to dismiss the case…” The judge said as she learned back in her chair.
“Um, your Honor. The State would ask that you just reset this case, as I’m sure that Miss…” The lead prosecutor for our courtroom, Alfred Bell, spoke up hesitantly at first.
“Isn’t here and doesn’t appear to be ready to go forward.” Judge Andolette said politely, yet pointedly.
“Yes, but as I mentioned, all we know is that she’s out sick and…” Alfred stammered less as he started to gear up for a fight with the judge. “…there are other cases, older cases, that either could be tried in a day or should take priority anyway.”
“I see.” Judge Andolette looked down and ran her index finger over the side of her lip. “And you’d like to get to those cases today, correct, Mr. Bell?”
“Yes, your Honor.” Alfred glanced over at me when he thought the Judge wasn’t looking at him. I could not help but simmer at his smug, scrunched up little smile.
“Fair enough, Mr. Bell. Mr. Valdez, has Speedy Trial ever been waived in this case?” The judge asked, turning to look at me.
“No, ma’am.” I replied. “In fact, it already expired.” I perked up, realizing that with everything else going on, I had almost forgotten that one of my trials had a Speedy Trial issue.
“The State is entitled to the recapture period, judge. We get fifteen days to…” Alfred spoke up, looking back over at me again. I could see in his eyes that he still was playing catch up to what was unfolding in front of him. I smiled back at Alfred and winked.
“The State is correct, your Honor. But the Defense would like to point out that we already had the hearing on my Notice of Expiration of Speedy trial…about two weeks ago, as a matter of fact. So, I believe that today’s the last day of the recapture period.” I said, walking to the podium since the judge was clearly addressing my case.
“I see. And are you ready for trial, Mr. Valdez?” Judge Andolette asked.
“Yes, your Honor. The Defense is ready.” I replied, forcing the smile off of my face.
“State ready?” The judge turned over to Alfred.
“Judge, this isn’t my case…Miss…” Alfred began to stammer again.
“Isn’t here and seemed perfectly healthy all day yesterday. Defense announced ready for trial, so are you ready to try this case?” The judge leaned forward in her chair and stared down at Alfred.
He turned to the other two prosecutors, who were typing away on keyboards and going back and forth between their screens.
“State?” Judge Andolette barked after waiting for almost half a minute.
“Judge, if the Court intends to call up this case, we can be ready to pick a jury after lunch?” One of the other prosecutors, Nelson Brown, announced.
“Thank you, Mr. Brown; however, I’m ready to call up a jury now. Are any of you ready to try this case in Ms. Murray’s place?” The judge asked incredulously. There comes a point in every lawyer’s career, I believe, where you learn to just shut up and let the judge speak. At this point, I resisted the urge to say something and decided to let the prosecutors keep burying their own cause and case.